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National Park Service wants to get rid of encampments by Union Station

The National Park Service says no-camping enforcement is needed to address public health and safety issues at the site.

WASHINGTON — A large encampment between Union Station and the United States Capitol Building will soon be removed.

Earlier this week, the National Park Service placed signs, in Columbus Circle, alerting people inside the roughly two dozen tents there that they would have to move by 7 a.m. on June 1.

"NPS had originally targeted early May for the action but agreed to push the date later at the request of the District in order to give their social service providers more time to offer services and housing to the unsheltered occupants of the encampments," NPS Chief of Communications Mike Litterst said. "We will provide written and verbal notification at least 14 days in advance of the closure."

NPS said it had previously suspended the enforcement of its no-camping regulation at Columbus Circle during the pandemic.

Now, the agency plans to remove the encampment outside Union Station’s front doorstep for several reasons.

“The National Park Service has determined that enforcement of the no-camping regulation at Columbus Circle is needed to address public health and safety issues and unsanitary conditions,” the NPS sign reads.

NPS says it will clean up the space, rehabilitate the turf, and mitigate the local rodent infestation after its enforcement is complete.

"Since being informed of the site closure plans by NPS, the District in partnership with Pathways to Housing DC and the H3 Project (homeless outreach providers) have collaborated in an effort to increase engagement among residents experiencing homelessness and service connections attempts with the goal of matching these residents to all available stability and housing related resources as they are eligible," a spokesperson for D.C.'s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services said. "Potential services include the following: low barrier shelter engagement and services, eligible bridge-housing services, and Project Reconnect services, which can assist residents with financial assistance towards obtaining District based housing stability or returning to the resident’s city/state of origin for available service connection. The District will continue these collaborative efforts prior to and following the site closure dates in an effort to help the residents reach a sustainable level of housing and community stability within our great city.”

Texas native Glenn Lanier has been living in a tent at the site for the last three weeks after becoming the victim of identity theft. He admits the encampment doesn’t look great. However, he adds, for a man of his late age, going to a shelter isn’t always safe.

“It’s the prime place of D.C., you come out of [Union Station] and you’re supposed to see a better atmosphere than you see with these tents, but you need another place for the homeless to go.”

He said he was only talked to once by officials about leaving the site, for fifteen minutes, when NPS put up its signs in the area.

“If you just put a person out and don’t give them anywhere else to go, it’s hard to understand that,” he said.

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